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Winter maintenance frequently asked questions

Gritting lorries

When does the winter gritting season start?

Our winter maintenance activities take place from late October until mid-April. Our teams are on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are ready to grit at any time of day or night to ensure roads are safe and accessible for all road users in order to keep the county moving.

How many gritters do you have?

We have 17 gritters which can also be equipped with snow ploughs. As well as this, we have quad bikes and towable spreaders, tractor mounted equipment and dedicated snow blowers.

When do you grit?

Gritting often takes place during the night when temperatures are generally at their lowest. Salt works best if it is laid before the ground freezes. We take into account a range of factors, such as rainfall that could wash salt from the road to time our gritting runs so they are most effective. In periods of prolonged freezing temperatures or snow accumulation, we may salt more regularly, including in daylight hours, and we may also use snow ploughs to help clear routes.

How does gritting work?

Road salt lowers the freezing temperature of moisture on the road surface, helping to prevent ice from forming. By adding salt to road and pavement surfaces, it can prevent freezing up to temperatures of -6C to -8C.  At temperatures below -5C, salt becomes less effective.

Will salt/grit melt ice straight away?

No, this is not always the case. Spreading salt on the road is only the start of the de-icing process. When the salt is walked on or driven over by vehicles, it is crushed and turned into a brine solution. It is this brine solution which is most effective in melting ice and preventing snow and ice from forming on the road or footway surface. If traffic levels are low, roads can remain icy for some time. Vehicles will help the process more than pedestrian and cycle traffic.

Which roads do you grit?

Due to limited resources, we are unable to grit every road in Herefordshire. We have identified a network of priority routes which are gritted as a precautionary measure when temperatures drop.  We have also identified a network of secondary routes which are typically roads which link smaller villages to main road or smaller roads which are used as part of local bus routes. The secondary routes are gritted during spells of prolonged cold or icy weather. Our Gritting routes map shows the priority and secondary routes for gritting.

Do you grit the A49 or M50?

No, motorways and trunk roads are the responsibility of National Highways. This includes the M50 and the A49.

I saw a gritter on the road but it wasn't spreading any salt – why?

The gritter may have been on a dry, or practice, run at the start of the season, or it may have been on its way to start its route or on its way back to one of our depots after finishing a route.

Do you grit pavements?

We grit heavily trafficked footways (such as retail zones in Hereford and the Market Towns) and strategic footway and cycleway links depending on the availability of resources and the prevailing conditions. This will mostly be during prolonged daytime frosts, or during significant snow events.

Do you grit car parks?

Yes, a number of council car parks are on the secondary route network and get gritted during spells of prolonged freezing weather and when resources and access allow.

When do you refill grit bins

We fill all our grit bins before the start of the winter season and maintain the stocks throughout the winter months. This salt is intended for use on the public highway (roads or pavements) only, and not for domestic use on private property.

How do I arrange for my local grit bin to be filled?

If salt supplies and resources allow, we re-stock bins following a request. You can arrange for your local grit bin to be filled.

Am I allowed to clear snow from pavements and pathways?

Yes. Safety is a shared responsibility, and we encourage Herefordshire residents to look out for each other in periods of wintery weather. You can clear snow and ice from pavements yourself but be mindful of your own and others safety. Do not use water, as this may refreeze and make conditions worse. It's unlikely that you'll be held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement if you've cleared it carefully.

How can I prepare for winter?

  • Travelling during winter can be more difficult, but there are things you can do to prepare. Always plan ahead before you travel, check local weather forecasts and advisories and ensure your vehicle is well maintained
  • Vehicle checks should include: tyre and pressure, oil levels, screen wash levels, and that all lights are working correctly. Also remember to ensure you have plenty of fuel for your journey
  • Carry a winter kit. This can include: de-icer, ice scraper, torch, fully charged mobile phone, boots, shovel, blankets and warm clothing, sunglasses for low winter sun, food and drinks, and winter boots
  • If travelling in icy weather, remember to drive carefully. Keep to main roads where possible and slow down. Use high gears to help avoid wheel spin. Accelerate gently and leave bigger gaps between you and other vehicles. Do not brake suddenly and look out for road markings and signs that may be obscured by snow
  • There is also UK Government advice on Keeping warm and well during cold weather which covers preparing at home

How can I keep up to date with forecasts and road closures?

We provide updates on local forecasts and road conditions via Twitter @HfdsCouncil and @HfdsStreets, or search #HerefordGrit or #WMGrit, although this can also include posts from other local authorities. We also provide updates on our Herefordshire Council and HerefordHighways Facebook pages.